This Saturday we head to Blaydon.
Blaydon arrived in National 1 in 2007 and have remained there since So we played them for 5 seasons, which means I have used up most of what I know about the town in previous issues. On the South bank of the Tyne, traditionally in the County Durham but now in Tyneside - it is a suburb of Newcastle/Gateshead historically home to the race course made famous in Geordie Ridley's song - but now best known for the Metro Centre.
As a convenient place to ford the Tyne it featured in the wars between England and Scotland. In 1640 King Charles' army was defeated here by the Scottish Covenanters - which led to him recalling Parliament for the first time in 13 yeas to raise necessary funds. His ongoing disputes with Parliament led to the Civil War. Eight years later Cromwell camped here on the way to the battle of Dunbar. It is also home to coal mines, the fires set by King Charles army set a seam on fire which burned for several years. This led to commercial mining and to coking works then to power stations - though they now lie under the Metro centre.
The Swalwell Hoppings were as big an entertainment as the races. Swalwell is the next village to Blaydon and home to the Rugby Club. Hoppings are of course dances - but this seems to have been much more. Traditionally held on Whit Monday, in the 18th Century the entertainment included `Dancing for Ribands, grinning for tobacco, women running for smocks, foot races for men, ass races and a man who would eat a live cockerel, feathers entrails and all.' And of course plentiful food and ale. In later years the Hoppings attracted fairground rides The Hoppings died out in the 1960s but have been revived in recent years in much reduced form at the Rugby Club.
Which is of course the propose of our trip.
This season Blaydon are not doing that well. They have two wins (Fylde and Hull Ionians) and a draw with Macclesfield. They sit bottom of the table level on points with Macclesfield and a point behind Hull Ionions. However, they did get a losing bonus point at Coventry - so they cannot be taken for granted. It is one of the longest journeys of the season, so Cambridge will have to get off the coach and switch on immediately if there is not to be an upset.
Although it is a long trip it is a simple journey, head up the A1 past the Angel of the North, round the Newcastle ring road and turn left just past the Metro Centre. Alternatively you could take the train. Though I recall that when the Blood and Sand team did that one year they somehow 'missed' the last train home - and thus were forced to spend an evening out in the Bigg Market which I am told was a great hardship for the lads. If you do make a weekend of it, you can be assured that no matter how cold the weather, the welcome will be warm.
The weather forecast suggests that the frosts have passed and it should remain above freezing from now until Saturday. Conditions on the day are expected to be cold but dry with little wind - so good for running rugby.